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Do Better

I’ve seen a couple of posts on social media this week alluding to the fact that we as a human race are better than the hate, divisiveness and intolerance that seems to be plaguing our culture not only here in the United States, but around the world. I have struggled with the concept of ‘evil’ the past few months – more specifically under the context of my new faith in Jesus – and wondered how humans can be capable of such maleficence, animosity, greed, and indefensible abuses of power. So, when I read a post on Instagram with a photo of a bag of trash collected from Venice Beach with the tag “We need to do better.” I thought to myself: Do we? Or when I viewed a story about a newborn baby abandoned in a plane bathroom after an alleged in flight birth with a caption decrying “Humanity we are better than this!” I couldn’t help but think: Are we?

The conclusion I’ve come to is no. No, we are not. I know this seems quite disheartening at best, nihilistic at worst. It took me a while to acknowledge the fact that evil does indeed exist and to wrap my head around how people could behave in alarmingly cruel and deceptive ways. Our current state of affairs, particularly here in California, deeply saddened me. I grieved and craved an exit from a state that seemed to be slowly tightening the noose around people’s necks. It was easy for me to conclude that our authorities in government simply don’t have God in their life. If they did, surely, they wouldn’t feel the need to exert unnecessary power over other humans. However, my own justification wasn’t enough and failed when I questioned: What if they do? What if these people claim to believe in God? One thing I’ve come to learn is when I ask, God always answers. In the past three months I’ve listened to sermons, read books for school, and listened to podcasts that have reaffirmed my belief in Christianity. My deep sadness has been transformed into joyful exuberance because of my faith in Christ.

Good vs. evil is arguably the the oldest story ever told, has been witnessed many times throughout history, and is a tale that will continue until God restores His Kingdom. Through a radical acceptance of what is, we can move forward with ease and without fear knowing ultimately, the fate of our civilization is under His control. This is not to say we become passive and throw our hands up in futility or remain inactive in creating change. Although, from what I understand there is a doomsday form of Christianity that takes the “Fuck it, it’s all going to hell in a handbasket and I’m saved because I’m a Christian so it doesn’t really matter anyway” route. It is not the one to which I subscribe nor prescribe. Nor is it the faith that says the world ‘out there’ is evil so I will lock myself away, pray for all the heathens, make myself a better person and only convene with others committed to doing the same. I tried that route with a different type of vague spirituality, and believe me, it doesn’t work. It creates an isolated selfishness that can ultimately lead to depression. (If I had a dollar for every spiritual seeker still struggling with mental health issues …)

Faith in something that we will never see or comprehend is the source of true power – a power discovered when we give up control as opposed to attempt to gain it over other humans and ourselves. It has been my acceptance of the fact that the job of saving the world is not mine that I can even try to go out there and do it. I learned something very valuable in my first weeks’ pursuit of my master’s in public policy: policy is not the remedy to society’s ills. It was such a relief to reconcile that I am not in this program to force my beliefs or my will because I think I have the solution to the health crisis in this country. I am only here because I am, beyond a shadow of a doubt, certain this was God’s will for my life. He has given me every opportunity to act according to HIS will, not mine, and I start each day asking that His will be done through me. I don’t always succeed, but it is always my intent.

Thus, I have no good answer for why some people behave the way they do. As much as my feeble human mind shouts for solutions and understanding, in knowing that I don’t know and will never know, I have peace in my life. Although, I am not ignorant of the fact that some of the greatest atrocities in the world have been carried out and are likely still perpetuated in the name of Christianity, which always leads me to wonder, what version of the Bible are they reading?

While admittedly I am new to Jesus and the word of the Bible, I am beginning to understand why Christianity, despite the many power grabs for its control, and the word and spirit of Jesus, despite many attempts to pervert it, is the ultimate path to this peace and transformation. While I am convinced simply because I feel the difference in my own life, I realize that is not the most compelling argument. So, I will do my best to illustrate via the social media examples I cited above.

Many people pick up trash off the beach, because well, it’s just the right thing to do. They place plastic utensils, Doritos bags and cans of Bud Light they find walking miles of sand into a plastic, mind you, garbage bag because they are a “good person.” A Christian picks up the trash because they know they are not. No amount of good deeds or virtue signaling will win favor in the Lord’s eyes. Christians don’t do acts of kindness or generosity because it makes us a better human, or because we feel better when we do it. We do them as acts of service for the Creator of all life out of gratitude for all we’ve been given. The grace. The love. The acceptance. The abundance. The beauty. It’s not a guilt trip. Shame isn’t a motivating factor. Gratitude is. Reverence is. Worship is. Service to the Lord of life is.

The outcome – a cleaner beach – may be the same, but the motivations are different. This is the reason we don’t have the utopia everyone – particularly the radical Left – dreams so fervently about. If we are counting on man’s “goodness” to create paradise or even a better world as we think it should be, it will never happen. Man cannot do it. We fell from paradise a long time ago and no amount of science, virtue signaling, vaccinations, or posts about self-improvement will create perfect equality or a perfect world. Humans will never be able to do what God can do. This is not to say we should give up on striving to “be better” as many of the social media posts these days claim (I received a message from someone on Instagram after sharing Joe Rogan’s interview with Dr. Robert Malone admonishing me to “be better, Jennifer!”) but we should be aware of our motivations. If they are rooted in our belief that human nature is inherently good and we are diving into our essence to dig up good deeds, well, as Jordan Peterson often says – good luck with that. Sure, it’s a relatively inconsequential decision when it comes to whether to clean up the trash on the beach or pass by with indifference, because how much of an impact will one beer can thrown in the trash make? But what about when it comes to the tougher decisions in life say, whether or not to take another life in defense of your own or someone you love? Or save a mother’s life as opposed to her unborn baby’s? No amount of digging into our human bag of moral tricks will give you the right answer for that.

I’d also like to point out the danger of delving into indulgence and glorification of our weaknesses. I recently came across a video on TikTok proudly announcing everyone’s prescription and dosage for a variety of anti-depressant cocktails. Another well followed influencer promoted merchandise proclaiming “Hail, Satan!” “Live, Laugh, Love Evade Suicide,” “Cunt,” “Bag Of Dicks,” and “I Hate Myself.” This cries of an existence in pain and for the life of me, I don’t see how the solution to that pain comes from normalizing such attitudes or behavior while simultaneously admonishing others for their so-called ‘bad choices.’

However, if a virtuous life is one spent striving towards values and higher principles as ordained by a higher power (as many of the great philosophers pre-Age of Enlightenment such as Aristotle claim) and not those created by man, ad hoc, then we have a shot at living a happy, and more important, fulfilling life. We may not always make the right decision, but if we choose the action we believe is best aligned with God’s word, then at least we can say we gave it a good shot and learn from the pain that will inevitably come from our misaligned decisions or habits inconsistent with His will for us. Therefore, a good life is not one that ultimately avoids all struggle, pain, or, yes, death to maintain safety and acceptance. A good life is one spent in accepting our own fallen nature and stretching our arms out as hard and as far as we can to receive the abundance of God’s grace and blessings, no matter the cost.

Why do you think, despite man – and government’s – best efforts, we are so far from the society we achingly long for? The one that treats all humans with dignity, respect, love, patience, and kindness? Because we as humans will never get there on our own. The quicker we realize that, the quicker we will indeed see Heaven here on Earth.

If we are honest, doing what is right or just doesn’t always feel good nor does it always carry the appearance to the outside world to be the right thing to do. Today’s culture rooted in liberalism often promotes doing what feels good to us as individuals and what is ‘right’ through the eyes of humans. How are we doing with that? Does that seem to be working? Denzel Washington has said “I’d rather stand with God and be condemned by the world than to stand with the world and be condemned by God.” I admit I saw this as a meme so cannot confirm Mr. Washington as the source, regardless, I stand by the sentiment. Our folly is in believing that “human capacity [can] ‘master’ or ‘control’ nature.”[1] I can point to numerous examples of current events that demonstrate this false premise, but you don’t have to ruminate that hard to see them for yourselves.

In short, if we rely on man’s supposed morality and wisdom to change the world we are doomed to failure. The quicker we realize that the man tossing his Natty Light can in the sand or the woman tossing her baby in the toilet or (Gasp!) the person choosing to remain unvaccinated or not wear a mask represents a part of us, the closer we’ll be to realizing the kind, loving and unified world we so desperately crave. Stop seeking goodness in self-help books, “science” and the State. We will never see true equality, peace, and goodness until we appreciate the inevitably of inequality, destruction and evil both in the world and in ourselves. God is giving us every signal, every sign, every opportunity to turn to Him to accept our inevitable fallen nature and to allow Him to change our hearts and behaviors according to His wisdom. The question is, whose lead are we following: ours or His?  


[1] Deneen, P. J., Hunter, J. D., & Owen, J. M. (2019). Why liberalism failed. Yale University Press.

The “S” Word

 

“Nobody speaks to God these days. Nobody speaks to God these days. I’d like to think he’s looking down and laughing at our ways. Nobody speaks to God these days.”

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

 

“ . . . not to get all spiritual on you or anything . . .” I find myself using this disclaimer in many of my day to day conversations. And lately I’m asking myself why? Why am I afraid to elevate a conversation from commonplace to thought provoking? Am I afraid people won’t understand what I am saying? Or am I afraid I’ll lose friends as they’ll start to find me ‘too much’? Or am I simply afraid people will find me strange and run the other direction every time they see me coming? I’ll be that girl.

Maybe I’m afraid I’ll offend someone. Although, I don’t see how tinting discussions with a dose of spirituality can be more offensive than guns.

Frankly, I think this world could use a little more spirituality. A little more reverence for the beauty that surrounds us everywhere, every day. A dash of humility in the face of the grand force that created the Universe, the reason why we are here. A good old slice of humble pie as we say. The acknowledgement that our small ego mind is no match for the great mind of the creator. Call that force of creation whatever the heck you want. God, Allah, Buddha, Source, Shiva, Shakti. Use whatever pronoun you want – He, She, It. But make no mistake, you and I are really not in control. No matter how much we’d like to think we are. So, just a little bit, give it up. Let it go. Stop thinking you know what’s best for everyone, including yourself.

Maybe, if we invited a little more spirit into our daily conversations we could listen to each other no matter our race, religion, sexual preference or gender, with a little more tolerance, knowing at the end of the day we are all intimately connected and inexorably linked to one divine source. That despite our differences, deep down, we truly are the same. Maybe, if we invited spirit into all of our conversations, whether silently or outright, we could all find a little more kindness.

Truly, I see no other way. I can’t imagine we’re going to get out of the mess we’re in – politically, socially, environmentally – if we don’t bring a little more spirit into our daily lives. The only true and lasting solution I see to the hatred, the catastrophes and the fear of this world is spirituality and its close-knit cousin, an equally dirty word – the “F” word – FAITH.

Please don’t confuse spirit with religion. I don’t preach and I don’t ask anyone to convert to my way of prayer or that they pray at all. Speaking from a place of spirit is simply a recognition that with whomever I am speaking, as a child of God (again, replace that word with whatever you wish), is special, as I am special. And at the same time, because we are all God’s children, none of us is. Having more money than someone else doesn’t make you special, nor does your job or your position or stature in society, and certainly not your Instagram account.

Nor am I saying every conversation should be candy coated with the speech of rainbows, unicorns, crystals and chakras. Carrying a consciousness of spirituality as we move through daily life simply means that as we interact and converse with others, as well as ourselves, we are aware of a presence of love in our own hearts and others, no matter how different we may think and live.

I don’t care how you practice your faith. All I can ask, that I can pray for, is that we all find a deep source of love and wisdom to connect to. A knowing that beneath our skin, bones, muscles and tendons, there is a part of us that lives untainted by sorrow, hurt, and fear. That despite the errors and abuses our egos perpetrate, we are loved. When you come know that part of you and take time to connect to it every day, there is no need to defend yourself – with words or with guns.

I suppose that is why more and more, I will not shy away from inviting spirit into my everyday life. My spiritual practice is the very thing that helps me open up and listen more, despite the easy rush to judge and criticize. And it is the only thing in this mad, crazy world that helps me continue to find joy, peace and a reason for being here.

 

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